Life, unexpectedly

Most of us look forward to a comfortable retirement after years of hard work. But many Malaysians reach middle age only to realise that things did not turn out as they’d imagined it. It’s time to consider a plan that will take you through your golden years.

LIAN Mong King, 64, lives about as healthily as a person his age can. A pastor, he doesn’t drink, smoke or indulge in “bad” habits like gambling.

A man of God, he believes that a healthy way of life, coupled with his religious faith, will allow him to lead a peaceful and harmonious life.

So far, Lian has not experienced any major health complications, except for a brief brush with arthritis he has since recovered from.

“I don’t really exercise, but I watch what I consume,” Lian says, adding that regular doses of home-made noni (a fruit) juice helps maintain his vigour.

Lian says his fuss-free daily schedule entails plenty of reading and watching news channels on satellite TV. “Sometimes, my wife drags me to go shopping with her.”

They are very much a happy couple who has shared a long, blissful marriage, but Lian insists: “We are not rich. My wife and I live moderately, but we are happy.”

Healthy for life

Neither Lian nor his wife, a homemaker in her 60s, has insurance coverage as he believes that their healthy lifestyles will see them through their golden years.

“I’d rather spend my monthly income of RM3,000 on basic necessities or on our children’s education,” he says.

Lian has four children – two sons and two daughters from ages 16 to 30. His three elder children are all university graduates who now hold stable positions in respectable organisations. He believes they will take care of him and his wife throughout their twilight years.

“My wife and I have never demanded anything from them, but I believe the combination of good parenting and religious upbringing will lead them to do the right thing. I am sure they will take care of us if we need them,” says Lian.

“Besides, I am too old to get an insurance policy now as the premium will be high at our age, so it’s not suitable for us.”

Lian is convinced that his lifelong savings will take him and his wife through the final stages of their lives. “At this age, we don’t need much, just the basic necessities like food and clothes, so we don’t need a lot of money. When we get sick, we can go to the general hospital.”

In an Utopian universe, many from the baby boomer generation like Lian will be lounging around past retirement with nary a worry in the suburban comfort of their picket-fenced homes.

After a lifetime of hard work and late night coffee-diets, they might even consider spending some of their hard-earned savings on an exclusive getaway.

And why not? Their children should all have jobs by then, saving accounts should be built up and mortgages should all be taken care of, right?

Murphy’s law

Think again. Many Malaysians reach middle age only to be hit by the hard truth that not everything has worked out the way they’d imagined it. Some people in their 50s or 60s could be on their way through their second or third house, or (god forbid) their second or third spouse. Not to mention they may still have to put up with their children’s ever-increasing college fees.

Unexpected periods of unemployment or illness could also throw a healthy bank balance off-board. While Lian is optimistic about his future, the rising cost of living and inflation rates, as well as the burgeoning pressures of the 21st century, could send his plans crumbling before he even realises it.

To make matters worse, medical costs are getting higher by the year as your health deteriorates with age, making quality medical treatment increasingly burdensome and inaccessible.

According to survey findings, sky-high medical expenses make up one of the sole reasons for default or difficulty in servicing debts. A staggering 24% of Malaysians also reportedly have poor financial planning – that, coupled with our national past time of incessant eating, is almost a sure recipe for a medical disaster.

Though of course, none of us are likely to include major hospitalisation bills or expensive medical treatments in our blissful retirement vision, but an unexpected turn of events such as terminal illness or accidents can easily wipe away all your life savings.

While most Asian traditions value filial piety, as is the case of the Lians, most retirees do not want to burden their family when they get sick.

Health problems do not discriminate between age and gender, and those who have been known to lead the healthiest of lifestyles could also fall prey to unexpected, life-threatening diseases.

Even the rich and famous are not exempt from life’s calamities. Take the late Charlie’s Angels actress Farrah Fawcett for example. She didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, she exercised daily and she believed in good health. That didn’t stop her from falling sick.

In 2009, the iconic 62-year-old succumbed to anal cancer after a long, hard battle with the killer disease.

In the United States, about 1.3 million new cancer cases are diagnosed every year; every 29 seconds someone suffers a coronary event; and every 45 minutes, someone suffers a stroke.

In Malaysia, medical costs for cancer treatment can go up to RM300,000 while kidney failure could cost you RM150,000 or more. Meanwhile, major organ transplants could amount up to RM100,000.

Smooth sunset ride

While critical illnesses like cancer can be fatal, one’s quality of life can certainly be enhanced with adequate medical attention. One of the surest ways to safeguard your finances, as well as address your concerns in the face of a medical catastrophe, is by getting an insurance policy that will see you through your needs.

While people are generally encouraged to start protecting their health at an early age to lessen the financial impact a later health problem could cause, it is never too late to start tending to your wallet and well-being.

It is also worth noting that medical insurance is only available to those who are in good health because an insurance company is required to underwrite one’s risk.

The average lifespan of Malaysians is estimated to be 73.8 years, so plans that provide coverage beyond that is definitely a plus as it ensures the protection you may require well into your retirement years.

While shopping for the right insurance plan, take note of the fixed lifetime limit that usually comes along with most medical insurance plans. Plans that impose a lifetime limit on customers set a fixed limit on the amount of reimbursement you can claim in a lifetime.

What you should be looking for are plans that do not impose a lifetime limit to ensure continuous and uninterrupted access to the medical care you may require in your old age. Think of an unlimited medical cover as starting a fresh page every year, regardless of the amount of claims you may have made previously.

Also, take into account the annual limit that is offered by a policy. A higher limit would certainly help you cope better with escalating medical costs.

Lastly, never ignore the fine print that is almost always hovering at some latent edge of your documents. Make sure your insurance provider does not impose a co-insurance policy on you.

Many insurance companies claim to have a comprehensive policy cover on medical insurance. However, most insurance companies will impose a co-sharing of hospitalisation bill, meaning you will have to pay for a certain percentage of the hospital bill on your own. You don’t want to be cracking your head from having to cough up the extra cash when you should be focusing on recuperating.

You’ve spent your whole life building up your future and now is the time to reap what you’ve painstakingly sowed. A credible medical insurance provider will walk you through adversities and ensure a smooth ride into your sunset years.

Health , Lifestyle , Health , retirement